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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-160
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-160
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 27 May 2019

Research article | 27 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Experimental tests of phytoplankton response to ornithological eutrophication in Arctic freshwaters

Heather L. Mariash1, Milla Rauito2, Mark Mallory3, and Paul A. Smith1 Heather L. Mariash et al.
  • 1National Wildlife Research Centre, Science and Technology Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H3, Canada
  • 2Centre d'études nordiques and Département des sciences fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Chicoutimi, Québec, Canada
  • 3Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, B4P 2R6, Canada

Abstract. Many populations of Arctic-breeding geese have increased in abundance in recent decades, and in the Canadian Arctic, Snow (Chen caerulescens) and Ross’ Geese (Chen rossii) are formally considered overabundant by wildlife managers. The impacts of these overabundant geese on terrestrial habitats are well documented, and more recently, studies have suggested impacts to freshwater ecosystems as well. The direct contribution of nutrients from goose faeces to water chemistry could have cascading effects on biological functioning, through changes in phytoplankton productivity and community composition. We demonstrated previously that goose faeces can enrich ponds with nutrients at a landscape scale. Here, we show experimentally that goose droppings rapidly released nitrogen and phosphorus when submerged in freshwater, increasing the dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. This resulted in both a decrease in the nitrogen:phosphorus ratio and an increase in cyanobacteria in the goose dropping treatment. In contrast, this pattern was not found when we submerged cut sedge (Carex sp.) leaves. These results demonstrate that geese act as biovectors, causing terrestrial nutrients to be bioavailable in freshwater systems. Collectively, the results demonstrate the direct ecological consequences of ornithological nutrient loading from hyperabundant geese in Arctic freshwater ecosystems.

Heather L. Mariash et al.
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Heather L. Mariash et al.
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Short summary
Across North America and Europe, goose populations have increased exponentially in response to agricultural intensification. By using an experimental approach, we empirically demonstrated that geese act as biovectors, making terrestrial nutrients more bioavailable to freshwater systems. The study revealed that the nutrient loading from goose faeces changed the phytoplankton community composition, with a shift toward increased presence of cyanobacteria.
Across North America and Europe, goose populations have increased exponentially in response to...
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